German environment minister urges Merkel to step into climate row

Berlin - Cabinet was due to approve climate action plan on Wednesday. Held up due to criticism from transport, agriculture ministries.

Berlin - Germany’s environment minister on Wednesday urged Chancellor Angela Merkel to intervene in a debate over a climate action plans after a row over how Germany will curb CO2 emissions prompted the cabinet to delay approving the proposals. Barbara Hendricks, a member of the Social Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, had wanted her proposals for Germany’s Climate Action Plan for 2050 to be ready for the next round of global climate talks in mid-November in Morocco. But resistance from ministries led by Merkel’s conservatives, in particular the transport and agriculture ministries, has led to a delay and means Hendricks will go to the talks empty handed. “If the chancellor’s policy competence is worth something, the proposal should have come back almost unchanged from the ministries,” Hendricks told the Funke Media Group, adding that she had discussed her plan with the chancellery. Merkel, once dubbed the “climate chancellor”, has remained noticeably absent in recent months from the debate over what is intended to be German’s plan to meet its ambitious climate goals.

The plan lays out how Germany will move away from fossil fuels and achieve its coal of cutting CO2 emissions by up to 95 percent by 2050. It is based on pledges made as part of a global climate treaty clinched in Paris last December. Following months of debate, the environment ministry has already watered down its proposals by abandoning a timetable to exit coal-fired power generation and scrapping C02 emissions reduction goals for individual sectors. Instead, the new version proposes measures to ensure Germany will be “largely” greenhouse-gas neutral by the middle of this century. Hendricks urged other ministries to take Germany’s climate commitments seriously: “Some people still seem to believe that climate protection is solely the pleasure of the environment minister,” she said. “If we cannot reach a consensus on the way to exit coal, legal regulations will inevitably become unavoidable. I want to avoid this,” she said.